A: Take those three words and think about how your organization can benefit from studying risks associated with fatigue and drowsy driving. Dr. Charles Czeisler is the renown “Sleep Doctor” from Harvard who has worked with professional athletes and aerospace engineers to help them obtain adequate rest and reach peak performance.
When you next talk about distracted driving with your employees, try a new approach. Think of driver distraction in a global sense. And think of breaking from the norm. Think of empowering you employees to hold co-workers accountable. Encourage them to speak up and say something to their co-worker, especially when the co-worker’s choice is one that puts them or others in harm’s way.
Q: What types of things distract drivers?
A: Newspapers spread over the dash and audio books. Yes. Personal grooming, including applying mascara and brushing teeth while behind the wheel. You bet. Social media, including Facebook and the streaming of videos. Yep. Hot coffee, messy burgers. Yikes! Anything that takes your attention away from focusing on the road is a distraction.
Drivers who miss 1-2 hours of sleep nearly double their risk for crash, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. So, not only are some drivers impaired by alcohol and others distracted by smartphone technology, still others are physically unable to focus on the task at hand because they are nodding off while behind the wheel.
This is important to recognize because you want to protect yourself, your loved ones and others around you on the road by staying alert and ready to respond at a moment’s notice. You never know if/when the guy next to you is going to inch into your lane or if you are about to encounter some type of unexpected hazard (such as debris in the road).
Our Driving Concern Program Manager Lisa Robinson speaks to issues and concerns all employers face when trying to make their workforce safe on the road:
Don’t let getting busted for drunk driving become one of your holiday memories.
That message is shared by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as a part of its holiday season drunk driving prevention campaign.
Q: What can Texas employers do to spread the word? Why is it important for them to do so?
A: When employers make transportation safety a part of their daily culture of safety, they can save money and save lives. Texas employers spend more than $3 billion every year as a result of on and off the job traffic crash injuries and fatalities. Eating and drinking are a part of holiday merriment. Holiday travel turns deadly because so many drunk drivers are on the road.
During the 2014-2015 holiday season (Dec. 1, 2014, to Jan. 1, 2015), Texas Department of Transportation crash data indicates there were:
- 2,411 alcohol-related traffic crashes, resulting in 190 serious injuries and 110 fatalities
Let’s clear up this misconception right here, right now: You are alone behind the wheel. You are not free to let your guard down.
A new video produced by AT&T shocks viewers when they watch a man described as a typically responsible father fall victim to the dangers posed by distracted driving. The father might as well be one of your employees. And you easily could substitute a mother in the lead role here to further broaden the horizon of this discussion.
“The Unseen” concludes with what AdvertisingAge calls a supernatural turn. Dad thinks he is alone in his vehicle, picks up his phone and … bam! In that split second, a family’s life is changed. From an employer’s perspective, your budget might as well be busted, too.
Nationwide, employers spend $8.2 billion every year on distracted driving incidents, according to a report from the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety. Texas employers spend more than $3 billion a year as a result of on and off the job injuries and fatalities.
Most disturbing of all is the fact 82% of Americans feel the most pressure to drive distracted from those dearest to their hearts, family members, according to results of a public opinion poll released by the National Safety Council.
Here are four ideas to address distracted driving at your workplace:
- Share this poster on your company’s bulletin board, in an e-newsletter or via your intranet service: Dead Man Talking
- Spend five minutes: Frequently Asked Questions About Distracted Driving
- Talk about hands-free technology: Watch AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Cognitive Distraction
- It Can Wait: I Pledge to Care for Those Around Me and Put My Phone Down When I’m Driving
Miles to Go, Places to Start on Battle vs. Distracted Driving
In Ben Kelly’s FairWarning commentary, Miles to Go on Highway Safety, he ends with a cautionary tale from former National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief Joan Claybrook.
To paraphrase, she says, if there are no rules for adequately testing self-driving technology before it becomes a highway reality, motorists like the driver in the fatal Tesla autopilot crash will become unwitting guinea pigs in the trial-and-error evolution of automated vehicles.
The bit of irony to share with your workforce in a traffic safety huddle is this: Technology one day holds the promise of solving problems created by technology. Until the bugs are ironed out, the best advice to share with your employees can be summed up nicely using words such as alert and attentive and sharing catch phrases such as eyes up, phone down.
Know this about hands-free technology and driving: The brain quickly toggles between two tasks – but can’t do two things at the same time. According to the National Safety Council, the activity in the area of the brain that processes moving images decreases by up to one-third when listening to talking on a phone. Drivers looking out the windshield can miss seeing up to 50% of what’s around them when talking on ANY KIND of a cell phone.
Make use of our Safety Coach cards to quickly test employees’ knowledge while in the field. Example: Name five ways to avoid potential distractions while driving:
- Don’t drive while calling or texting
- Keep your phone secure
- Don’t reach for anything while driving
- Don’t eat or drink while driving
- Groom yourself at home
On social media, the Texas Department of Transportation provides one more suggestion to alleviate concerns associated with distracted driving: Use Snapchat or the latest update to the Facebook app to create iPhone wallpaper. Superimpose a text reminder over a photo of a loved one: It Can Wait.
30 Seconds from AT&T: The road is full of people whose lives are at risk the second you take your eyes off the road to look at your phone.
Does it seem like employees are always distracted by their cell phones while at work? How often do you see someone who has their face buried in their phone? Way too often, I would imagine, so I’m sure you will be able to relate to this scenario.
In Phone Down, Eyes Up, a public service announcement produced by Keep Kids Alive Drive 25 in partnership with Ford’s Driving Skills for Life and the Governors Highway Safety Association, we are introduced to Kyle and Melanie.
And then we are introduced to the special relationship they have with their phones. Suffice it to say the two spend nearly every waking minute with their phones. Do you know people like that at your workplace?
Q: I am concerned about those who drive as part of their job and also concerned about all of our employees and their families. How do I talk with my employees about the traffic safety risks posed by using handheld and hands-free devices while behind the wheel? And what about dashboard infotainment systems? Do I include information on this in my safety talks?
In a recent issue of The Prospector, a student publication at the University of Texas El Paso, reporter Christian Vasquez details how “DWI will cost you more than a mug shot.”
Lessons learned by those still in school are applicable to those in the workforce, too.
Impaired driving is the main ingredient in a recipe for roadway disaster. The associated costs run the gamut from fines — which can amount to $17,000 or more — and jail time to crash fatalities and injuries. And, then, there is public humiliation.
“Honestly, you feel like a huge loser, and you feel like a huge disappointment to everyone in your life,” said one UTEP student in recounting the impact after he was arrested for DWI.
Your company cars and trucks are equipped with the latest technology, including dashboard infotainment systems. And you’re thinking it must be safe for employees to use these systems while driving since they came with the vehicle, right?
These systems likely are designed for convenience, but that does not necessarily make them safe. Most people today are unaware of the distractions associated with hands-free and voice control features, including cognitive distraction and inattention blindness.
AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety research indicates mental distractions can persist long after dialing, changing music or sending a text using voice commands. How long? In the time it can take you to pull your brain away from the performance of one of these tasks, you will have covered the length of six football fields in a vehicle traveling at 40 mph.
Traffic crashes remain the leading cause of workplace death – but that can change.
A: The answer is simple. Talk traffic safety. It’s good for people and it’s good for business. But don’t stop with a little talk. Take steps to ensure traffic safety becomes ingrained in your regular safety culture. At Our Driving Concern, we provide free tools and resources to assist you in that endeavor.
Traffic safety messaging needs to be on-going and consistent, easy for all employees to follow. Think of it like this: “If it’s important to the boss, it’s important to me.”
Our sample Safe Driving Policy is one tool you can use. We encourage you to copy the policy onto your own company letterhead and use it as a guide to create your own safe driver policy and as a way to inform, educate and enforce safe driving policies with employees. Did you know using a cell phone while driving increases the risk of a crash by four times, and texting increases crash risk by 23 times?
Your chances of running a stop sign, failing to notice a pedestrian in the
crosswalk or another vehicle cutting in front of you are increased after you’ve made use of hands-free technologies in your car, according to research conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
The AAA Foundation suggests you could end up in a state of cognitive distraction after using technology in your vehicle that renders you unaware of your immediate driving surroundings, and it could last for a much longer timeframe that you might guess.